Champions League Match Preview: Dinamo Zagreb V.S. Real Madrid

Is 'Pipita' looking for the start?

Here we have it again, folks, the UEFA Champions League! Real Madrid will open up their European season tomorrow at 20:45 in wild Zagreb--and they'll be without José Mourinho on the bench. Our coach is still being sanctioned for his press conference after last year's match against Barcelona in the Camp Nou.

Dinamo has been playing well lately, although we all know that the Croatian league and the Champions League's first rounds are not that much of a challenge.

Kaká is not on the list for tomorrow's game because of a heel contusion that he suffered during Saturday's game. He hasn't been practicing with the team, so it's not a good idea to risk injury. The Spanish media has informed us that Higuaín has been given the starter's bib in today's training, so maybe Mourinho will give him some more minutes to get in shape.

Dinamo is currently ranked first in the Croatian league with six wins out of seven and a draw. It is a pretty impressive record and they will certainly look forward to this game. Their coach, Krunoslav Jurčić, was one of the key men in Dinamo Zagreb's last Champions League participation, during the 99/00 season. He is still adapting to being a coach, and he said in a recent interview with Uefa.com that Mourinho is his idol.

"During the last few years I have analyzed [Mourinho's] work as a coach a lot, and I can say he is my idol. I don't want to hide that. I like his way of managing matches a lot, and his reactions during matches, he brings a lot of emotion into matches. If there are no emotions, football is not a real sport for me. Without people like José, football would never be as popular as it is at the moment."

I really think we can all agree with what this man has said, and it's nice to see some support for our coach.

Real Madrid comes to this game with fairly good results, but without the ideal playing style in the last match. Khedira looks to be fully recovered, and he might be ready for this game, though I doubt that Mourinho is going to risk injuring him. Coentrão will likely slot in as our second midfielder tomorrow, since Lass and Granero are traveling with the team, but don't seem ready to start yet.

The Portuguese center midfielder did not play very well last Saturday, but he has proven that he is totally in shape and ready for everything. Mourinho needs to calm him a little bit so he can be more focused defensively. He ran after every ball during the first half and looked tired 10 minutes after the HT. If he plays smarter, then we won't need to suffer as much as we did Saturday.

I don't know whether Mourinho is planning other changes or not--As is saying that Khedira and Albiol are both likely to start, but I am not confident about this tabloid's sources.  I think that if he is planning to give any starters some time off, he will do it in our next la Liga game against Levante.

As I pointed out in our Dinamo Zagreb's team analysis, their highest quality player is Sime Vrsaljko, expect him to start tomorrow and show his full potential as a right fullback [Note from the author at 16:05: Vrsaljko is not in the list tomorrow due to a suspension for a red card during Dinamo's last European game against Malmö in the Champions League Qualifiers]. You can check this analysis again for a more in-depth look into the Croatian team.

Let's face it, we are expected to win tomorrow's game comfortably, but Zagreb will give everything they have to cause us problems, so if we are not focused on the win, we might get a draw. I trust José Mourinho, and I believe that he will make the team push really hard to get the three points and start our la décima road in good shape.

Correction appended: An earlier version of the article accidentally reported that Brazilian play maker Kaká suffered a concussion in Real Madrid's match against Getafe. In fact, Kaká is in Madrid recovering from a heel contusion. 

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